Or so I thought.
I moderate comments on my blog to prevent hateful speech, spam, or personal rants unrelated to the topic. A few weeks ago I received two sequential comments from the same individual.
The first asked why God would make a clitoris if not to use it. As part of the diatribe the commenter said, "You assholes have done nothing to promote this most wonderous [sic] of god’s creations". She followed up the first comment with, "By the way have you tipped your waitress lately? She makes 3.63 an hour you cheap [expletive]".
Neither of these comments related to the post about the difference between ecumenism and interfaith. Her comments never appeared on my blog because of my own criteria of not allowing hateful speech or rants unrelated to the topic. They had nothing to do with a post clarifying terminology.
Or so I thought.
A few days ago I laughed out loud when viewing a cartoon drawn by David Hayward. In the cartoon, the church is a box trap. The bait is hearts representative of unconditional love. The church too often promises a loving community but fails to deliver. That is the trap.
Hayward's simple drawing captured my experience of too many churches. Love is promised if you're straight, if you think the right way, or if you put the church china away properly. Love is for insiders and those who make no mistakes.
Despite my own enjoyment of the cartoon, it had nothing to do with the unpublished vitriolic comments.
Or so I thought.
Richard Beck suggests in The Bait and Switch of Christianity that the church, "has essentially become a mechanism for allowing millions of people to replace being a decent human being with something else". An overemphasis on "working on our relationship with God" results in neglecting working on being decent people. One piece of evidence he cites is the poor tipping behavior of churchgoers.
Beck's comment about poor tipping behavior caused a synapse in my brain to fire. Could there be a connection between the angry comments and my blog after all? What if she was commenting on my Christianity? Was the commenter angry at me because I am Christian?
Don't dismiss me yet; I'm not suggesting that Christians are persecuted. We are not.
In its history the Church has endorsed, done, and ignored heinous things. The children's crusade, the witch hunts, and the anti-semitism leading to the second world war come immediately to mind. In contemporary times, those claiming to be followers of Jesus have been hateful and hostile to our GLBTQAI kindred, to women, to the poor, to Muslims, to Jews, and others.
None of these hateful actions or words are consistent with the gospel of Jesus Christ. None of these actions reveal the abundant love of the Divine. Nonetheless, they've become associated with Christianity as a whole.
What if the would-be commenter to my blog sought to comment on Christianity as a whole rather than a particular post? What if she had been hurt by the Church's arrogance or by less than loving Jesus followers? Lord knows we've hurt people before and still do so too often.
Sins of the Church: Arrogance
There are more sins of the church than can be discussed in one blog post. The church is made up of imperfect humans after all. I suspect, however, that it is not our imperfections but our arrogance in implying that we have the one (and only) truth that offends those of other or no faith. Our unwillingness to take responsibility for the failures of our history and our contemporaries' hateful rhetoric and actions undoubtedly are also offensive. We don't always exude the love of the One we claim to follow.
Though I believe there are multiple paths to the Divine, I believe Jesus is the path God has set me upon. Within his humanity, we find a near-peer who serves as a guide for us on our journeys. As a follower of Jesus I strive, within the bounds of my own humanity, to love fully. I walk the path of following Jesus with billions of my contemporaries and with my historic kindred.
Our journey as Christians, as followers, as servants of humanity, includes sharing the joy we've found in our faith. Lest I be misunderstood, sharing is not force-feeding or dismissing other paths. Sharing is not arrogant nor is it judgmental. Sharing means living a life as consistent as we're able with the extravagant love revealed in the biblical narrative and creation. It means love revealed in relationships and working for social justice. It can also mean talking with others about the love we've found in our faith.
Love, however, does not force others onto our freeway to the Divine. Love doesn't restrict access. Jesus' love is not a toll road. It is a freeway in which we are all welcome; but, there are other ways landscaped with God's love.
Or so I experience the Divine.